Trump dis­avowal of white su­prem­a­cists doesn’t quiet con­cerns

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - WEATHER - By Bill Bar­row and Jonathan Lemire

AT­LANTA >> Don­ald Trump’s dis­avowal this week of white su­prem­a­cists who have cheered his elec­tion as pres­i­dent hasn’t qui­eted con­cerns about the move­ment’s im­pact on his White House or whether more acts of hate will be car­ried out in his name.

Mem­bers of the self-de­clared “alt-right” have ex­ulted over the Nov. 8 re­sults with public cries of “Hail Trump!” and reprises of the Nazi salute. The Ku Klux Klan plans to mark Trump’s vic­tory with a pa­rade next month in North Carolina. Civil rights ad­vo­cates have re­coiled, cit­ing an uptick in ha­rass­ment and in­ci­dents of hate crimes af­fect­ing blacks, Jews, Mus­lims, Lati­nos, gays, les­bians and other mi­nor­ity groups since the vote.

The pres­i­dent-elect has drawn re­peated crit­i­cism for be­ing slow to of­fer his con­dem­na­tion of white su­prem­a­cists. His strong­est de­nun­ci­a­tion of the move­ment has not come vol­un­tar­ily, only when asked, and he oc­ca­sion­ally traf­ficked in retweets of racist so­cial me­dia posts dur­ing his cam­paign.

Fur­ther, Trump has named Stephen Ban­non, the con­ser­va­tive me­dia provo­ca­teur who shaped the fi­nal months of Trump’s cam­paign, as a White House chief strate­gist who will work steps from the Oval Of­fice. Ban­non’s ap­point­ment has be­come as a flash­point for both sides.

Trump’s de­trac­tors and his “alt-right” sup­port­ers broadly agree on one thing: It may not even mat­ter what Trump him­self be­lieves, or how he de­fines his own ide­ol­ogy, be­cause his cam­paign rhetoric has em­bold­ened the white iden­tity pol­i­tics that will help de­fine his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“Those groups clearly see some­thing and hear some­thing that causes them to be­lieve he is one who sym­pa­thizes with their voice and their view . ... Don­ald Trump has to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that,” said Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings of Mary­land, a black Demo­crat. He was among 169 mem­bers of Congress who signed a let­ter op­pos­ing Ban­non’s White House ap­point­ment.

White na­tion­al­ist leader Richard Spencer said he be­lieves Trump, Ban­non and the “alt-right” are “all rid­ing in the same lane.” Spencer ex­plained that nei­ther Trump nor Ban­non is a move­ment “iden­ti­tar­ian,” Spencer’s pre­ferred term for his racially driven pol­i­tics. But Spencer said Trump’s elec­tion val­i­dates Spencer’s view that Amer­ica must re­ject mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness” in fa­vor of its white, Chris­tian Euro­pean her­itage.

Spencer’s group, the Na­tional Pol­icy In­sti­tute, drew head­lines for their re­cent gath­er­ing where some at­ten­dees mim­icked the Nazi salute as they feted Trump. Spencer told The As­so­ci­ated Press the salutes were “ironic ex­u­ber­ance” that “the main­stream me­dia doesn’t get.”

But at the Anti-Defama­tion League, which tracks in­ci­dents of anti-Semitism, Oren Se­gal said it is part of a dis­turb­ing post­elec­tion at­mos­phere tied to Trump’s 17-month cam­paign.

Be­fore, Se­gal said, it wasn’t “sur­pris­ing” for the ADL to get calls about a swastika, the Nazi in­signia, de­fac­ing public or pri­vate prop­erty. “What’s sur­pris­ing now,” he said, “are the ref­er­ences to the cam­paign” in the in­ci­dences. “‘Make Amer­i­can White Again’ ... ‘Go Trump’ with the swastika,” he said. “That is unique.”

Trump was asked about the rash of in­ci­dents dur­ing a post­elec­tion in­ter­view on CBS’ “60 Min­utes.” Trump said he was “sad­dened,” and he looked into the cam­era and said, “Stop it.” But Trump has stead­fastly de­fended his hir­ing of Ban­non, who pre­vi­ously led Bre­it­bart News and in July de­scribed it as a “plat­form for the al­tright” — just a month be­fore he took the job run­ning the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee’s cam­paign.

Jared Tay­lor, edi­tor of the white su­prem­a­cist mag­a­zine “Amer­i­can Re­nais­sance,” said Trump bears some re­spon­si­bil­ity for his pitched rhetoric, which in­cluded de­scrib­ing Mex­i­can im­mi­grants as “rapists” at the out­set of his cam­paign and propos­ing a ban on all Mus­lim im­mi­grants. But Tay­lor said Trump is still un­fairly ma­ligned as a white su­prem­a­cist and racist be­cause he “cares about Amer­i­cans al­ready here.”

But white su­prem­a­cist im­agery was a com­mon sight at Trump ral­lies. Pepe the frog, a car­toon char­ac­ter ap­pro­pri­ated by the white su­prem­a­cist move­ment on so­cial me­dia, ap­peared on dozens of T-shirts and signs. The “Make Amer­ica Great Again” motto was seen by some as a call back to the na­tion’s sim­pler, whiter, past.

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